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Career Story: Computer Security Analyst

Computer Security Analyst

Job Title: Analyst

Education: BA in Philosophy and in Psychology, Western Washington University

Previous Experience: I was a telephone operator while in college.

Job Tasks: The company is a wireless telecommunications company, but I do nothing specifically related to wireless telephony. I do work related to computer security, but I am not in the formal security organization.

I keep antivirus software up-to-date. If someone encounters a virus, I try to determine how that happened. Frequently, I'll find undetected virus software by looking where detected virus software was found. Undetected virus software gets forwarded to antivirus software vendors. These samples improve antivirus software for everyone around the world.

With information about where viruses come from, you can find patterns. You use this patterns to predict where viruses can be expected to be found, and block access to those locations.

You might think I ask users what they had been doing. Actually, no. That's not particularly helpful when determining what actually happened. Asking users also keeps them from doing their job. It is more productive to use the information at hand to reconstruct the sequence of events that must have occurred.

I keep software up-to-date with security patches.

I monitor for locations that are missing security patches and get them corrected.

I test applications for security problems that could be exploited by hackers or virus writers. I then work with application developers to modify their software to avoid these problems.

I create my own job. I fill in the gaps; I take on the tasks that no one else will do but are generally agreed to be necessary. I've changed my job that way for thirty-one years now; always something involving computers, taking on some tasks and letting other tasks go.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: Best parts:

I'm doing work that makes a difference, work that is socially responsible. I'm helping keep mothers and children safe, keeping people that I'll never meet safe.

I find out that I can do things I wasn't aware I could do. I wasn't aware I could troubleshoot a web site until I did it.

I'm asked questions about subjects I shouldn't be expected to know anything about. But by taking a question, rephrasing it, and re-asking the question, I find that the person who asked can usually provide enough information to answer it themselves. A well-asked question can usually provide an answer quickly.

Worst parts:

Information collecting can be tedious. You can start making mistakes. Organize how you can get the work done in a way that you can stop and switch to something else without losing your place.

Job Tips:
1. Liberal arts teaches critical thinking.

2. People with computer backgrounds can't look beyond the computer.

3. Solve problems.

4. Smile.

5. Be supportive.

6. Be someone people can picture working with.

7. Listen, but don't accept that what a person says is what they want to say. Take their words and turn them around, ask if that's what they meant. It gives them the impression that you understand, but you're really just listening. Eventually they'll correct themselves and you reach an understanding. Reach an agreement about what the problem is first.

Additional Thoughts: I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. "When I grow up" ... when's that supposed to be? Be helpful now, not some "grownup" day.

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